The First Thing You Should Do When You Wake Up? Share Your Dreams.

Don’t be shy!


Telling someone about your dreams is a unique combination of boring, selfish, and indulgent. Which is why you should do it first thing, every day, and to a loved one. Let me explain.

Just over a year ago, Amanda Hess argued in Slate for why dream talk should no longer be taboo, no longer deserving of the title of “the bore by which all other bores are measured.” Hess makes a compelling and convincing case, drawing from psychological theory, scientific literature, and cross-cultural analysis. I will use none of those things as evidence—I will simply use my own experience, and common sense.

The common sense part should be clear: I think we can all agree that dreams are awesome, in the traditional sense of the word. I have nightmares somewhat frequently (more so these days), and I still think that dreams are cool. In a dream, you can fly, or feel like you’re screaming at the top of your lungs but no sound comes out. It’s great! Anyway, the best thing about dreams is that that they bolster your experiences in the otherwise experience-free activity of being asleep. Considering the amount of time we spend asleep, this can really measure add up. Since we dream, on average, 2 hours per night, and live, on average, 78.8 years, we could ultimately end up spending 6.5 years in a lifetime dreaming. It’s a substantial amount of time to ignore.

We all dream, we just don’t always remember doing so. But talking about dreams, particularly when you first wake up, can make them easier to remember. It’s those initial moments as you’re waking up where the dream still feels accessible, lingering in the synapses waiting to be solidified into your conscious mind. Talking about your dreams—or writing them down—helps.

When I was little enough to be woken up by my mom in the morning, the first words out of my mouth were usually “Mom, I had the weirdest dream!” My mother, also a person who regularly had and remembered crazy dreams, was very sympathetic to my outbursts. She even encouraged them, fueled, I think, by the fact that my father had no patience for dream-talk. She was happy to engage in some dream-listening if it meant she also had a captive audience for her own dream-sharing.

These days, I’m too old to be woken up by my mom so I’ve directed my habit at another willing participant—my boyfriend. The first words out of my mouth most mornings are still “I had the weeeirdest dream.” And then I proceed to tell him about it. For the first few minutes of the day, we engage in some very deep pseudo-psychoanalysis, usually about me because I’m better at remembering my dreams, but also sometimes about him. (I actually think that he’s gotten better at remembering his dreams since we’ve been dating, on account on my insistence on dream-talk, but he says his dream memory comes and goes in “spurts.”) I asked him if my habit bothers him, and he lovingly said that it doesn’t, and that he’s largely just amused by my unlimited capacity for marveling at the fact that I had the weirdest dream, because this is a daily occurrence.

At any rate, his sportsmanship shows exactly why sharing your dreams first thing in the morning is a great idea. Beyond the fact that this is the time you’ll remember them best, if you’re waking up with someone, you have a captive audience. And while perhaps it is preferable if this person has decided to be in a committed relationship with you, it’s also a great icebreaker if, say, they are not someone who is in a committed relationship with you. It’s a fun way to engage with your (potential) partner about something silly and weird and occasionally a little serious, before you move on with your day. At an intimate time of day, these little exchanges make me feel safe and loved as a crawl out of my dream world back into the (nightmare) world. If I didn’t do it, I would probably just be buried in my phone checking my email (this is what tends to happen when I don’t dream). Much better to engage with the human being in bed next to me.

So there you have it. Talking about your dreams first thing is fun in the moment, possibly productive for your current or prospective relationship, and might add years to your life, in a way. Everyone should do it.

Read more from Awake, a blog about mornings.